Johnny Jolly started his second effort on the first day of minicamp for the Green Bay Packers. This is a photograph of Jolly during the 2009 season.
Raymond T. Rivard photograph
The fact that Johnny Jolly was on the football field today at the Green Bay Packers minicamp is not only a tribute to his persistence and determination, but more importantly it’s a tribute to those who make up the Green Bay Packers, namely Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson.
They could have taken the easy way out. What would have been the road of least resistance would have been to say a simple no to Jolly, the Packers defensive lineman who was rising in stature before he got addicted and spent time in jail because of it.
Instead, Thompson and McCarthy took the high road. Here’s what McCarthy had to say about his initial reintroduction to Jolly earlier this year:
"“Johnny was in town probably about a month back. Had a very, very long visit with Ted Thompson and then I sat down with him, and then we went from there. As far as today and so forth, I really just want to let Johnny get back into the routine. What needed to be said has been said and it’s time to get back to work.”"
And when asked about whether he and the Packers hesitated when given the option on whether to bring him back, McCarthy said this:
"“Not at all. None whatsoever. The biggest thing for Johnny Jolly is just to be one of the 90. That’s really the way I want to go about it. Our locker room is ready to embrace him and make sure that he has the support he needs to … not football-wise. The football part, I’m not really worried about. I just want to make sure that he gets into a routine. Regularity is important to everybody, especially a professional athlete. We just want to get him back into the regularity, the rhythm and the every-day procedures and get back on the horse and start riding again. Once again, he’s a football player competing for a job at the end of the day. You want to get him on that path.”"
And now we know why McCarthy has been so convinced that Jolly is on the road to recovery – Jolly has been clean for two years and learned his lesson well from his incarceration. In fact, he was released from jail because of the “shock” that it caused him.
He said he didn’t belong in jail with the murderers and rapists. Here is exactly what he said about the situation in which he found himself:
"“It was real prison. Murderers – any crime, that was in there. Yeah, I don’t belong there. No one belongs there, really. I mean, there are some people that do. I communicated with a lot of guys so I can understand certain things of why they’re there. Not understand, but I know why they’re there. It’s not hard for me to talk to them just because of what they’re in there for. I didn’t judge them when I found out and they did the same with me. You come across a couple of problems but that’s anything. That’s life. You can do that anywhere.”"
On his situation with codeine, Jolly said this about how he got into the culture and how grateful he is to be away from it:
"“I was a bad man. I mean, it was crazy because I knew I needed to chill but it was like I was getting a thrill out of what I was doing so I was just doing it. In my heart, I was like, I need to chill. I’m a football player and I need to take care of myself the other way. But sometimes you lose focus. You can’t get yourself back on track so God sits you down and puts you back on track and that’s what happened to me. I hate that I had to go through that, but it was a lesson learned. The lowest point? When I caught that last case. It was like, oh my God. I know I didn’t do this again. It happened so I had to deal with it. I done everything I needed to do and I’m back here. I ain’t going to say I was perfect, but I’ve done everything I was supposed to do the best way I could and God blessed me to be back in this situation.”"
These are the words not of a man who is deep into the subculture. These are the words of a man who believes in himself and his ability to complete his mission in life. To do that, he needs a second chance. To do that, he is deserving of a second chance.
Welcome back, Johnny. We hope the best for you. No matter what happens, you are a better man for it.
Here is video of Jolly at the minicamp today. The video is courtesy of jsonline.com.